BT Riopelle carries Florida to victory over Mississippi State

·2 min read

Florida baseball catcher BT Riopelle recognized every pitch the Mississippi State Bulldogs threw at him Friday night. He finished four for four with a double and a home run to go with six RBIs. Riopelle lifted the Gators to an 8-6 victory over Mississippi State in the opening game of their weekend series in Starkville, Mississippi.

Florida quickly spotted starter Brandon Sproat two runs before he even took the rubber. The Gators loaded the bases, and Riopelle drove in left fielder Wyatt Langford and right fielder Sterlin Thompson.

The Gators picked up where they left off versus the Bulldogs’ starter Brandon Smith. They tacked on four more runs when Langford blasted a solo shot and Riopelle rocketed a three-run homer two batters later.

Florida scored one more run in the fifth when first baseman Kendrick Calilao singled to bring home Riopelle in the fifth giving it a commanding 7-0 lead.

Mississippi State broke through for two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Sproat surrendered back-to-back singles to open the inning. After a strikeout, shortstop Lane Forsythe singled in a run and then second baseman RJ Yeager used a sac fly to drive home another to bring the score to 7-2.

The Gators answered in the next half-inning. Riopelle doubled to drive in Langford.

Head coach Kevin O'Sullivan called in reliever Blake Purnell to enter for Sproat to start the seventh inning. He finished his evening, going six innings and allowing six hits, one walk and two earned runs along with five strikeouts.

Purnell and the Florida defense struggled in the seventh, however. He surrendered two singles to lead off the inning. Then third baseman Deric Fabian committed a throwing error, loading the bases. Purnell recorded two outs via a fielder’s choice and a groundout but then gave up another single before O’Sullivan pulled him for Phillip Abner, who struck out designated hitter Hunter Hines to retire the side.

Purnell only lasted 2/3 of an inning allowing three hits and three runs but only one of them was earned due to the Fabian error and allowed Mississippi State to get back within striking distance at 8-5.

Pitcher Nick Ficarrotta replaced Abner in the eighth. He gave up a lead-off single then O’Sullivan signaled for Ryan Slater. He walked back-to-back Bulldogs to load the bases but escaped the inning only allowing a run.

O’Sullivan returned to Slater in the ninth. He recorded two quick outs but gave up a single to bring the tying run to the dish. Slater got the next batter to ground out to first to secure the 8-6 win.

Florida and the Bulldogs return to Dudy Noble Field for game two of the series Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EDT and can be seen on ESPNU.

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